ARTFUL BLOGGER: Tales of roadkill, N.Y. portraits & bejewelled insects
Artful Musing

ARTFUL BLOGGER: Tales of roadkill, N.Y. portraits & bejewelled insects


Marc Nerbonne, 'Meeting about us', 40 x40, mixed media on Dibond, 2014
Marc Nerbonne, ‘Meeting about us’, 40 x40, mixed media on Dibond, 2014

The table is perhaps the most important piece of furniture in the house. This is where members of the family sit to discuss important events, mark celebratory events, and have stressful arguments.

With that in mind, check out the new mixed media works by Gatineau artist Marc Nerbonne on view Nov. 6-19 at Galerie St. Laurent + Hill in the Byward Market. The tables pictured in some of the works should be interpreted as having been the scene of familial debates and confrontations. Atop the tables are the symbols of those confrontations – still-life arrangements formed from photographic snippets of animal body parts Nerbonne harvests from actual roadkill.

Does that sound gruesome?

Nerbonne’s works have a terrible beauty about them. They simultaneously attract and repel, like a carnivorous, sweet-scented tropical flower that invites insects to take a sniff before ensnaring and digesting them.

Marc Nerbonne, 'Hell is not for you', 37 x 62,5, mixed media on Dibond , 2014
Marc Nerbonne, ‘Hell is not for you’, 37 x 62,5, mixed media on Dibond , 2014

In previous exhibitions, Nerbonne used photographs of roadkill “to resurrect” the animals, reshaping photographic fragments of dead animals into totally different creatures – even some human ones. They were meant to make us ponder our destruction of the natural world.

Nerbonne’s new body of work at St. Laurent + Hill digs deeper, in part because these hybrids of photography and painting are influenced by “a year of hell” the artist experienced due to some personal issues, including the death of his father.

Marc Nerbonne, ‘Chacun ses zones sinistres, 2’, 24 x 15, mixed media on panel, 2014

“I wanted to go further and explore different avenues,” Nerbonne said in an interview. “I decided to have no boundaries with myself.”

Nerbonne’s previous works were largely paintings with photo-collages seamlessly incorporated. This new body is more dependent on photography, with painting and collage work playing more minor roles.

Consider the photograph Hell is Not for You, showing a large dumpster in a gritty industrial-looking space in New York. To the right of the dumpster is a huge pile of garbage. To the left, Nerbonne has carefully incorporated a pile of photographic fragments of roadkill. The container symbolizes the place where we store our sorrows.

Some of the other works are meant to illustrate how nature finds equilibrium even after the destructive actions of humans. Examine Chacun ses zones sinistres, 2, roughly translated as “Everyone has his own disasters.” A lone kingfisher is perched on a beach littered with dead fish. The fish were killed by humans polluting the adjoining body of water. But life, as symbolized by the bird, remains.

“There is a balance between good and bad,” says Nerbonne.

Marc Nerbonne @ Galerie St. Laurent + Hill, 293 Dalhousie St., until Nov. 19.


Kristy Gordon, ‘Crane’s Flight,’ oil, 30 x 40 in, 2014

Kristy Gordon is an Ottawa portrait painter who has relocated to New York and is making quite the name for herself. But she hasn’t forgotten us. She has an exhibition of new work from Nov. 4-30 at Cube Gallery. In an email exchange, Gordon discussed her approach to portrait painting:

I sense a harder edge to some of your portraits. They appear more penetrating than in previous exhibitions. Do you think your approach is changing? If so, in what way?

My approach is definitely always changing as I am drawn to different things in painting and, at this time, I have moved away from an overall soft-edged approach to one that uses more hard edges. I’ve also been experimenting more with combining playful, experimental elements in my work, such as my use of glitter in The Unicorn or the graffiti influenced backgrounds in Star Child and I Will. I have treated the figures with more concrete edges, so as to create a “trompe l’oeil” effect, where it looks like an actual person is standing in front of the painted background.

Kristy Gordon, ‘Your Eyes Are Like Deep Oceans,’ oil, 48 x 48in

What goes into your decision-making as to who would make a good subject for a portrait? Do your subjects need particular qualities or a particular look?

There are many different things that attract me in people and inspire me to want to paint them. In this show I have painted a lot of my friends, and seek to capture a certain soulfulness that I see in them. I also do a lot of self-portraits, using them as a vehicle for self-introspection. I am truly inspired to paint almost anyone because I believe we all experience the same depth of emotion.  When I look at someone else and study them for a painting I find an expression or a feeling that I can relate to myself.

Is your approach to painting a portrait of a friend or relative different than to painting a hired model or some other stranger?

I have the same requirements from a friend as I do a hired model, which is that they can sit really still for long periods of time and allow me to look at them. Sometimes it’s more awkward at first with friends, because it’s unusual to sit together in silence, with barely any movement, and no talk, and just stare at each other for hours. It’s an intimate experience. 

Do you think you will continue to paint portraits for the long-term or do you have other types of art you would like to tackle?

I will definitely be continuing to paint portraits for the long term. It’s something I’ve done all my life so far, and I see no end in sight. I don’t expect I’ll ever stop. I have been really enjoying painting plein air landscapes lately as well, so there may be more of that in the future. I like the combination of the two because I enjoy the intimate connection with people and I also love being out in nature and capturing that experience.

Kristy Gordon @ Cube Gallery, 1285 Wellington St. W., until Nov. 30.



Two excellent exhibitions are on in La Maison de la culture de Gatineau, 855 Boulevard de la Gappe. Upstairs in Salle Odyssee, Pontiac artist Manon Labrosse offers an unusual approach to landscapes. Below, in Art-Image, Jean-Francois Provost, one of Gatineau’s leading abstract painters, offers some amazing paintings of asteroids.

Manon Labrosse

Manon Labrosse, ‘Les billots se regroupent / The logs are coming together’ 60″ x 60″, acrylic on wood panel, 2014

In an exhibition titled In Search of the Landscape, Labrosse transforms aerial views of the landscape into semi-abstract paintings or, as the artist prefers, “fictional landscapes.”

Labrosse’s paintings are acrylic on board. She uses bold colours to a dramatic effect.

Manon Labrosse @ Salle Odyssee, until Jan. 25, 2015.


Jean-Francois Provost

In Art-Image, Provost offers large-scale paintings totally different from his usual abstracts. In an exhibition titled Presages (Foreseen), Provost has created, from photographs, pictures of ghostly white asteroids and comets hurtling through a pitch black sky.

Provost wants us to think about the power of asteroids hitting earth to wipe out entire species, perhaps even mankind. That’s one of the explanations for how the dinosaurs disappeared.

Jean-Francois Provost, ‘Présage,’ photographyThe exhibition is timely. The European Space Agency’s Rosetta Mission lander, Philae, was scheduled to touch down Nov. 12 on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, the subject of one of Provost’s paintings.

To see a video, in French, of Provost discussing his heavenly body of work.

Jean-Francois Provost @ Art-Image, 855, boulevard de la Gappe, Gatineau, until Dec. 21.

Caroline Arbour

Now head west to the Aylmer sector of Gatineau to see an astounding exhibition, Jewellery and Entomology: A Meeting of Two Worlds, at the Espace Pierre-Debain, 120 rue Principale.

Caroline Arbour, of Amos, Que., loves jewellery. And she loves exotic insects. Those two passions have resulted in life-sized replicas of exotic beetles, moths and other insects, sometimes decorated with precious gems, including diamonds.

This touring exhibition pairs real insect specimens collected by entomologist Georges Brossard, founder of the Montreal Insectarium, with the same-sized replicas made by Arbour. This is the most glorious pairing of art and nature I have seen in years.

“Showcasing both the aesthetic qualities of the insects and the richness of her jewellery, this beetle-loving artist juxtaposes the preserved creatures with their counterparts sculpted from gold, sterling silver, copper, stone and wood,” according to the gallery website. “The microcosmic becomes elegant and refined, precious and exquisite, in a brilliant rendering of the tiny universe that totally fascinates the artist.”

Caroline Arbour @ Espace Pierre-Debain, 120 rue Principale, until Dec. 7.

Centre d’exposition L’Imagier’s Uncertain Future

Meanwhile, Aylmer’s top art gallery, Centre d’exposition L’Imagier, faces an uncertain future. Once there was talk of expanding the gallery, which exhibits many Ottawa artists. Now the word is that the building will have to be torn down and replaced by a new structure. Stay tuned for developments.